How to Create a Budget and Make Your Money Work for You

Budget. Did you just get cold chills reading that word? It’s not a popular word, and it’s certainly not a popular idea. Typically, the idea of a budget is enough to take away any sense of fun you might have when thinking about spending your money. But, it doesn’t have to be.

There are several benefits to creating a monthly budget. When you have a budget in place, you instantly:

  •     Make your money work for you
  •     Assign each dollar in your account a job
  •     You get 100% control of your money
  •     You can track your expenses
  •     You’ll relieve some of the stress that finances can bring
  •     You will create a “safety net”

There are obvious benefits to creating and maintaining a budget, and there are just as many tools to help you budget as there are benefits.

So, where do you start?

First, figure out how much you make each month. Then, figure out how much you spend. Once you figure out what you’re bringing in vs. what you’re spending, you can start creating specific categories for your money. This is where you get to tell your money what to do.

Now, you’ve got a basic budget in place. You know what you’re making, what you’re spending, and your money has a specific goal. But, how do you keep track of all that information in a manageable way?

Budget apps! The great thing about budget apps – not only do they keep track of your budget, but you can take them with you everywhere you go. Check out some of the best budgeting apps for 2020.

Wally — Get the details of all your financial activity in an easy-to-digest template. Categorize spending destinations, set goals, and create charts. Wally provides you with the full picture of your account in a simple and colorful template. Easy to look at and easy to understand, Wally makes tracking and analyzing your financial habits easy.

Acorns — You know how it’s hard to overcome the mental hump of setting money aside? Well, Acorns removes that struggle from the equation. By rounding up each of your transactions to the nearest dollar, it puts the funds into an investment portfolio. This app looks out for “future you” and makes sure you always have a few acorns hidden away for a rainy day too.

Mint – Create budgets, track bills and receive a free credit report when you use Mint. However, it’s the budgeting feature that really makes Mint shine. It allows you to link your bank, loan, and credit card accounts and then uses the information from those accounts to suggest a budget for you based on your spending. Mint takes it a step further by breaking that spending down into categories like “entertainment,” “food and dining,” and shopping. The best part? You’ll be able to see how much you can save by cutting back in each category.

Mvelopes – A popular budgeting method is the envelope system, a style of budgeting, where you put cash in envelopes for different spending categories and when the envelope is empty, that budget category is spent for the month. This is great for people who like a cash only system, but for people who use credit and debit cards, this can be challenging. Enter Mvelopes, an app that makes it easy to follow cash style budgeting in a digital world.

Of course, while you’re downloading apps, make sure you’re using our mobile app! At First Financial, our app allows you to check your balances, transfer money, pay bills, review your spending and deposit checks remotely. Still have questions about budgeting and financial planning? Check out our handy budgeting guide, or make an appointment with one of our member service representatives and let us help get your budget on track!

 

Budgeting Mistakes that are Easy to Make

Hopefully by now in the second month of the new year, you’ve mapped out your monthly budget and expenses. If not, get started here ASAP.

Once your budget is set, it’s definitely not always foolproof. Here are a few categories in which you might forget to include in your budget, and a couple mistakes that are easy to make so you can be sure to avoid them.

Are you really ready for anything? Did you remember to include an emergency fund when you created your annual budget? If not, this is a big category you don’t want to forget about. If you have an unexpected emergency and you have no emergency savings account back-up, you’ll either be taking money out of other accounts you shouldn’t be touching or racking up debt on your credit card. Either way, it’s going to put a major dent in your budget. If you don’t have an emergency fund, start one as soon as possible.

Do you keep guessing about monthly bills? If you have utility or other bills that vary from month to month, you may have to guess what they may be when you are setting up your monthly budget. When you are estimating bills that change each month, be sure you factor in a number that’s higher than you think it would normally be. This way you won’t short change yourself and you can be prepared for anything that comes up.

Your budget won’t always be fully complete. Most likely, things are going to pop up for the month like a spur of the moment dinner out with friends, or that family member’s birthday gift you forgot to include when you initially crafted your budget. Things like this can really add up on a monthly basis though, if you forget to include them. At the start of each month, sit down and look at all the dates on the calendar for the month ahead. Think about who might have a birthday coming up, if there’s a weekend outing, and so forth. Factor in as many expenses as you can, and if you have a little leftover – give yourself a bit of a buffer just in case anything comes up last minute so that you won’t have to use your credit card.

Don’t forget about annual fees. Look back over what you spent last year if you can. Do you have a credit card with an annual fee, or maybe a gym membership, insurance policy, or warehouse shopping club annual fee? Jot them all down and take note of any annual fees that might be due. Plan ahead and try to set the money aside so you know you are covered when the bill comes in.

Like anything, there is a learning curve when you are first getting used to doing something like creating a monthly budget. Give yourself a bit of wiggle room and if you make a mistake, try to get back on track for the next month.

In addition to our budgeting guidebook above, also check out our online fillable PDF budgeting worksheet here. Come back each month and fill it out for the upcoming weeks ahead!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

How to Actually Save Money Every Month

It’s easy to stop pulling out your wallet every so often, but in actuality it’s our recurring expenses that typically get us into debt. Many people often ignore monthly expenses because they are subconsciously used to just paying the usual bills each month. However, there are a few areas that when you eliminate them or find ways to cut them down – you can actually save yourself some money on a monthly basis.

Take note of the following bills – can you cut any of these out completely or down?

  • Cell Phone. First look to see if there are any items you can cut from your monthly plan that will save you money on your bill. If not, consider switching carriers – there are often plenty of deals out there. Something else to look into is a prepaid cell phone plan. This may not work for everyone, but many have had success with saving a lot of money on their monthly cell phone bill this way and only using their mobile phone when they truly need it.
  • Home Phone. Is this something you actually use, or can you get away with just using your cell phone as your monthly bill? If you are still paying your cable company for a land line and you don’t use it – find out if eliminating this can add some savings back into your bank account each month.
  • TV. More than likely you probably pay way too much for your favorite shows through your cable provider. Have you sat down and looked at what you can still watch through avenues such as Hulu or Netflix for a fraction of the cost?
  • Gym Membership. Do you actually go to the gym and use your membership? If you do go daily, this would probably be one bill worth keeping. However – if you rarely go and continuously pay money each month, this may be one membership to consider cancelling and instead jog outdoors when the weather is nice or run at your local park instead.
  • Other Subscriptions. Included in this category would be newspaper or magazine subscriptions, warehouse shopping clubs, meal prep services, and so forth. How many subscriptions do you really need? Be honest with yourself. Are you paying a lot more for groceries by using a meal prep service? Really take a good look (and a calculator) at how much you are spending per month in this category and cut out as much as possible.
  • Utilities. Make sure your lights and electronics are off and unplugged whenever you aren’t in the room or using them. Open the windows and use fans during interim seasons when you don’t need the air conditioning yet. Besides helping your utility bills, these actions also help the environment.
  • Medications. Always ask to switch your prescription medications to the generic brand when possible. This will save you a lot of money. Also when you can, see if you can purchase a 90 day supply of maintenance medications. Usually this is a cheaper option instead of going to the pharmacy every 30 days for monthly refills, and more convenient too.
  • Vehicles. In the nicer weather, you will save money by washing your own car at home instead of going to the car wash. Also look for coupons and deals online before you take your car for regular maintenance such as oil changes or tire rotations, there is usually always one available.
  • Insurance. Call around and see if you can find a better deal and pay less. This includes car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance and the like.

Things to try:

  • Don’t Bring Your Credit Card Out for 1 Month. At first, you will probably feel restricted but this exercise will help you realize what you are spending money on. Which most of the time it’s probably an impulse purchase or an item you don’t truly need. When you pay with cash, you’ll often find you are more conservative with your purchases.
  • Pretend You’re Broke. Try this for 30 days – live on ramen noodles like your college days, and so on. This will show you that the salary you work hard for now should not be wasted on things that aren’t absolutely necessary.
  • Add Up Your Monthly Subscription Costs. As mentioned previously, jot down how much you are paying out in subscriptions every month. Even something that’s $40 a month adds up to nearly $500 a year. That’s a lot of money.
  • Check Your Statements. Watch out for those monthly automatic payments. Review all your monthly purchases and really scrutinize what you are buying. It always adds up to more than you think.

Need some help creating a monthly budget? Check out our easy fillable PDF budgeting worksheet!

Article Source: David Ning of Moneyning.com

Five Budgeting Tips You Can Live By

It’s hard to make budgeting decisions. It can be difficult to keep an eye on your short-term and long-term financial goals when you’re busy with everyday life. But putting together and following a spending plan can work wonders on your finances. Here are five tips you can use starting today.

1. Budget until there’s nothing left.

If you love spreadsheets, zero-sum budgeting might be the right move for you. It’s budgeting so every single cent is accounted for.

Try creating buckets for specific expenses — housing, transportation, food, and entertainment. After assigning amounts to these costs, stash what’s left over in savings.

When you sit down to put together your monthly budget, you can make categories for your big expenses and then create line items for smaller costs. Smaller expenses would include activities such as eating out or shopping.

The goal is to stay on top of your money from the beginning to the end of the month. Then repeat.

2. Get your loved ones involved.

Money management is a tough subject for most couples. However, avoiding money talks causes bigger issues that go beyond banking. That’s why you may want to work with your partner to decide on monthly spending — as a team. Discuss your short-term and long-term financial goals as a couple. Look over what you’ve got in your account(s) and go from there. But don’t forget about your individual needs. Both of you may also want to have cash for items or activities that bring you happiness. And if either of you is a big spender, have an honest talk about what you might be able to realistically cut back on.

3. Take advantage of technology.

Do you like using mobile apps? There are some great ones that exist for tracking your spending. Online banking apps also help you with automatic bill pay and lots of other features. You can view your cash in and cash out with ease and really get a handle on what money you’re spending. We’re all busy and any way technology can help is a plus. Of course, if you’re more comfortable keeping track of your expenses with pen and paper, that works too.

4. Give yourself time to adjust.

People who embrace budgeting for the first time often struggle. While getting over this is key to success, you shouldn’t expect to become a money pro right out of the gate. Understand that you’ll need time to adjust and that small setbacks are bound to happen when following a budget. Also, keep in mind that you might have to change your plan from time to time. An approach that worked last year might not work this year due to changes in your personal life or career. Don’t be afraid to switch things up if necessary.

5. Think about today and tomorrow.

Kick off budgeting with short-term goals like paying your credit card minimums or saving for a new car.

But don’t forget far-off goals and life events too. If you were to pass away, some of your everyday expenses stick around, like student loan debt and mortgage payments. You need to make sure your loved ones won’t be left without the cash needed to cover these costs. Getting life insurance is a good way to do this. This coverage, which insurers offer as part of term or whole-life policies, can cover some of your expenses and spare your family from having to pay out of pocket.

How to learn more about life insurance

Life insurance may seem complicated, but it’s not that hard once you know the basics. Of course, we are happy to help all of our members. Learn more here, and you can also use our TruStage Life Insurance Calculator to compare different types of insurance and learn more about your options.

TruStage® Insurance products and programs are made available through TruStage Insurance Agency, LLC and issued by CMFG Life Insurance Company and other leading insurance companies. The insurance offered is not a deposit, and is not federally insured, sold or guaranteed by any financial institution.

Corporate Headquarters 5910 Mineral Point Road, Madison WI 53705

Article Source: © Copyright 2020, TruStage. All Rights Reserved.

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3 Ways to Recover From a Blown Holiday Budget

Now that the holiday season has come to a close, you are probably looking at your bank statements and credit card bills with wide eyes.

So, what can you do to get yourself back on track financially after the holidays? Here are three helpful tips to set your budget straight.

Sell, Sell, and Keep Selling

Declutter your house and see what you can sell. It’s one of the easiest ways to get rid of extra things you no longer use, plus make some cash after spending during the holiday season.

  1. First, find out which big items you can sell and then list those on sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or various selling apps (Let go, etc.)
  2. Next, look through your closets for brand name clothing that can be sold on eBay, or apps like Poshmark and Mercari. This can really add up. As you go through your closet, snap pictures of the items you are planning to sell on your smartphone and upload them to the above mentioned apps. See how you do – if your items don’t sell in a few weeks, then put them aside to sell at your yearly yard sale in the warmer weather or make a local clothing bin donation.
  3. Lastly, request a bag from Thredup.com or Kindermint.com and pack them with clothes that your family doesn’t need. Most of the items that don’t sell in steps 1 and 2, will be hand-me-downs or 50-cent-finds, so after awhile if nothing is selling and you only get a couple dollars for your items – you are still coming out ahead.

Don’t Spend Money in January

Have you ever tried a month without spending money? The idea is that you cut unnecessary spending (eating out, home décor buys, clothes, and so on), and eat out of your pantry, fridge, and freezer for the entire month.

You are permitted to give yourself $20-40 a week to spend on milk, eggs, bread, and fruit/vegetables at the grocery store – but that’s it!

This is a great time to use up any food items that you may have around but forgot about. Plus, an extra $300 or more would be nice to put toward any credit card debt, or replenish your savings account – right?

Earn Additional Income

Does your job allow you to add overtime or do freelance work? If so, take advantage in January and February to help you pay down those holiday bills.

Be creative. Perhaps you can ask your employer for overtime opportunities, or take on a small baby/pet-sitting position. Even renting out your home or car, can produce extra income if you have the means to do so and live/commute another way.

Recovering from high spending like the holiday season can be tough, but with these steps you can overcome that blown budget relatively quickly and start off the new year on a better financial path.

Article Source:  Ashley Eneriz for Moneyning.com

How to Save Money Even on a Tight Budget

Saving money is important, but sometimes it can be hard to find extra money to save – right? While saving money can often be a challenge, it’s not impossible to do – even on a strict budget. Here are three ways you may be able to save when your spare funds are on the lower side.

Find deals online: Sites like Groupon or Living Social have a lot of deals in terms of entertainment and dining out. Did you know you can use them for much more? Both often have deals on electronics, automotive repair, health and beauty, home services and more! The best way to find these deals is to register with your zip code and browse around to find how you can save locally. If these are products and services that you’re already going to pay for or that you’re in need of, saving money in the process is an added bonus!

Trim it up: When you go on a diet, you may notice a little bit of weight loss in several different areas of your body. You should treat your budget the exact same way. Don’t try to cut back on (or completely cut out) one budget item, but trim a few dollars from different places. Some bills you aren’t going to be able to budge on, but you will most likely find a few areas you can cut back here and there. Take advantage of these savings and you’ll start to see it add up. Plus, you won’t feel as if you’re cutting anything out of your budget completely.

Spend more time at home: The more you’re out and about, the more you’re going to eat meals out and spend money on items you don’t really need. Instead of meeting your friends out for dinner and a movie, host a potluck dinner (ask everyone to bring something) – and watch your favorite movie or rent one from your local Redbox. You’ll save money, plus you can pause the movie when you need to and not spend a fortune on movie theater snacks. That’s a win-win for everyone!

Need help budgeting? Check out our online budgeting fillable worksheet!

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com